Compare and Contrast Case Laws on Search and Seizures Term Paper

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search and seizure laws. The writer uses several cases to present a detailed exploration of search and seizure laws and how the courts rule when they are challenged. There were five sources used to complete this paper.

The Constitution of the United States provides protection from illegal search and seizures through the fourth amendment. The fourth amendment is written in such a way that it can be vague when it comes to what is and what is not a legal search and seizure. Because those who wrote the constitution are no longer here to clarify the points that are not clear it is left to the United States judicial system to sort it out and make judgment calls when searches and seizures are challenged, either by the government or by the recipient of the search and seizure. This process places an enormous subjective burden on the court system but there are guidelines that are provided by the amendment itself that ease the process of making decisions about the validity and legality of a search and a seizure. Each case has to be determined on its own merit, and it is not uncommon for two cases that on the surface look very similar to be in fact very different, at least in the eyes of those who make the decision.

In this time of terroristic fear the residents of the nation are rethinking many of the privacy issues that the constitution provides. Regarding search and seizures the waters become even more muddied by the enormous number of variables and the intense subjectivity that surround the issue. One important case regarding the fourth amendment and search and seizure rights and responsibilities was that of a driver giving permission to have his vehicle searched and instead the passenger's person and possessions were searched as well. The case brought media attention because it was, at least for the area, precedent setting.

The fourth amendment secures the privacy of people who reside within the United States of America. It says in part: "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized (Amendment IV http://www.law.cornell.edu/constitution/constitution.billofrights.html)."

What this mandates is that searches and seizures must have reasonable reasons for being requested and being authorized and conducted. When a search is allowed it is backed by affirmations or oath that explain why the search is being requested. The judge determines based on these facts whether or not to allow a search warrant to be issued. It also has to be extremely specific about where the search is going to take place and what items are being looked for. Even after the judge issues a search warrant and the search is conducted the validity and basis for that search warrant can be questioned. The judge orders it based on the information that he or she is given at the time of request. Often times this is under a time sensitive deadline and later the facts of the warrant being issued are determined to not have been valid or reasonable for a search warrant to be issued.

There are many cases on the books regarding search and seizure challenges. One such case provides an interesting argument that when one enters a person's car they are not protected by the privacy issues that the United States Constitution provides while elsewhere, such as in a private home. This case ruled that a passenger in a car can be searched if the driver gives his or her permission to conduct a search of the vehicle and its contents.

The Wisconsin state Supreme Court made a difficult decision when it slit the vote 4-3 upholding the search as reasonable and therefore legal. This was an interesting decision because it ruled on something that most people take for granted. In most instances people believe that once they enter a vehicle they are still protected by the privacy afforded to them through the United States Constitution (Supreme Court upholds search ruling Passengers' property not private in vehicle

By DENNIS CHAPTMAN of the Journal Sentinel staff Last Updated: Feb. 6, 2001 (http://www.jsonline.com/news/state/feb01/supreme07020601a.asp).This ruling challenged that belief and ruled that they are not protected with the constitution's privacy provisions when they are in someone else's vehicle.

The story began when the police pulled over a driver for a traffic stop. The police were invited by the driver to search the van that the driver had been driving when the stop occurred. The driver, Anthony Miller, was pulled over when the police noticed that Miller's van was missing a front license plate, which in that state was required by law. The trooper pulled him over and gave him a warning. Before moving along the trooper asked Miller if there was anything illegal in the van to which Miller replied that he was not aware of anything. Miller then went so far as to invite the trooper to search the van, which the trooper did. In the van was passenger Jennifer Matejka and the trooper discovered marijuana in her possession. At the jail there was another small plastic bag of marijuana discovered during her more thorough search. There were also two hits of the drug LSD (acid) in her wallet at the time of her arrest.

She was charged with drug possession and she built her defense case around the claim that the search was illegal to begin with, therefore everything located within the search should be deemed inadmissible. The first judge that heard the case agreed that the search had been illegal but the government appealed and won at the court of appeals panel hearing later. The case then went to the Supreme Court where the Supreme Court judges also upheld the appeals court decision and the evidence was allowed to remain in the prosecution case. Part of the reason given by both courts for their decision was that neither Miller, who was in control of the vehicle, nor Matejka, who was found with the drugs objected to the search. It is interesting that the court ruled that way because there have been other cases that held similar circumstances that were ruled in the direct opposite light.

In light of the reduced expectation of privacy that attends property in an automobile, we conclude that the search of Matejka's jacket based upon the driver's consent to search the vehicle was reasonable under the Fourth Amendment," Sykes added."

Matejka had argued that the driver of the van had no control or possession of her jacket and therefore was not in a legal position to give permission for her jacket to be searched. This court ruling was valid because it allowed that the jacket was not in the driver's possession. The jacket was in the possession of the van and Miller was in possession of the van so when he gave permission for the van to be searched it was reasonable to search anything that the van was in possession of and that included the jacket.

The judges who ruled in each case commented that if the jacket had been locked in a briefcase within the van it might have called to question the driver's ability to consent to a search. This was an interesting ruling especially since previous cases regarding similar issues have been decided I favor of the government as well as against the government and its claim to the right to search possessions within a stopped vehicle.

The officer's search of Matejka's jacket was well within the proper scope of the consent to search in this case and was therefore reasonable," Sykes wrote." But Matejka's attorney believes that this ruling sets the fourth amendment on its head and renders it invalid and unable to protect those it was written to serve.

Most of us believe that by becoming a passenger in a car, we are not giving up our right to privacy, and we're certainly not giving the driver of the car consent to have our belongings searched," Connell said. "But that's what the Supreme Court decision says." The judges who voted to overturn the search cited the trooper's previous knowledge. The trooper knew that the jacket belonged to the passenger according to the passenger and her attorney. Therefore the search of it was illegal, according to them but the majority judge vote disagreed and upheld the search.

Bradley said there is no evidence to show that Miller had any authority over Matejka's jacket. She added that the trooper knew that the jackets he was searching belonged to passengers and not to Miller."

There is another case with similar situations in which the Supreme Court overturned the search as illegal. This was the case of a Border Patrol Agent searching a bag on a bus and finding drugs. In Texas a Border…[continue]

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